Paraphrasing, in my opinion, is a great thing to do when you get an interview with a source who’s saying a lot of words that aren’t super important. New York writer Olivia Nuzzi, who has spent the past year cultivating sources and relationships in the Trump administration, published a very strange story today about getting personally called into the Oval Office by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, where she then met with Trump, VP Mike Pence, Sec. State Mike Pompeo, and Chief of Staff John Kelly in an extremely strange, rambling interview that incorporated about 90% of Trump’s normal stump speech, all transcribed and quoted in full.
The situation arose, Nuzzi writes, because Trump got wind that she was planning to write a story about him wanting to fire Chief of Staff John Kelly. The news in this is that Trump says he doesn’t want to fire Chief of Staff John Kelly. That’s really about it — although it’s definitely super weird that Trump needed to tell her that personally, and call in Pence, Pompeo and Kelly to say essentially the same thing.
Here’s some relevant quotes, per New York:
“But I want to tell you a couple of things: the chief is doing a very good job. I’m very happy with him, we have a very good relationship, number one. Number two, I didn’t offer anybody else the job. I didn’t talk to anybody about the job. And I’m not, I’m not looking.
Ok, Trump says he’s not looking for a new Chief of Staff. At one point, Trump calls in Nick Ayers, Pence’s CoS. Nuzzi writes that she’d heard Trump had offered Ayers Kelly’s job.
“He has a good relationship with the general. I didn’t offer Nick the job. I mean, I’m telling you in front. Now, you can write that I did. But now, you have him, you have me, and I didn’t offer him a job and he didn’t accept a job. And there was no offer!”
In between and before and after this, however, there is like, a solid thousand words of Trump just... talking. He goes into the Mueller investigation (takeaway: “no collusion”), he literally hands Nuzzi a printout of 58 bullet points titled “TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ACCOMPLISHMENTS,” and then talks about them for a long time.
What I’m saying is just like, it would have been fine to paraphrase a lot of this! The printout thing is super weird, and definitely should be in there, and the general circumstance of the story is extremely strange. It’s super weird that Trump called her in (he had a lunch meeting with Pence scheduled), and then Kelly, Pompeo, Ayers, and several other people just popped their heads in or showed up. But the only actual newsworthy thing here is that Trump denies that he’s going to fire Kelly. There’s a ton in here that is just giving Trump another forum to fire off his stump speech and favorite talking points. We’ve heard these! We don’t need to hear these again!
To her credit, Nuzzi doesn’t list all of this stuff without challenging it (there are occasional points of clarification or fact checks in there, but not a lot). It’s not as egregious as USA Today deciding to publish a completely unchallenged, almost categorically false op-ed under Trump’s byline. But it also doesn’t really serve anyone to quote him on stuff like whether or not he misses New York City (he does, and also he used to live near the New York offices, but he likes D.C. because of the Accomplishments).